Pancake Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday, is also called Mardi Gras in some countries and translates to ‘fat Tuesday’ since the day marks the last day of feasting (or sometimes badly worded as ‘gorging’) before the fasting period of Lent. Rightly so, people celebrate by making pancakes to use up their kitchen staples – flour, eggs and milk (and sugar). Here’s a revamped version of the traditional pile that stacks up in both nutrition and taste! Who said health has to take a back seat on THE day of feasting?
Pile up, nutritiously
Pancakes aren’t the first menu choice that springs to mind when it comes to nutritious brunches, but there’s actually so much potential to fit in some extra fibre, vitamins and antioxidants from fresh easy ingredients.
Classic pancakes usually involve layer after layer topped with a melting square of butter and waterfalls of golden maple syrup … In reality, that stack would have a bright red flag for its high sugars (added sugars in the pancake and natural sugars from maple syrup, honey and other toppings), saturated fats from the butter and very little fibre , vitamins or minerals for your wellbeing – so perhaps consider gathering your troops to share the feast with you! Simple ingredient swaps can make your stack sing with health:
- White flour >>> wholemeal flour for added fibre
- Full-fat milk >>> low-fat milk or calcium-fortified soy or almond milk for the calcium boost with less saturated fat (look for varieties with at least 200mg calcium per 100mL)
- Maple syrup >>> 1 tablespoon of honey to wind down the sugar content
A typical pancake recipe will have tablespoons of sugar as well as the added sugars from the sweet toppings. Why are we so concerned about sugars? Free sugars in particular are the type that aren’t packed away in plant cell walls (as opposed to sugars in fruits and vegetables) and they therefore make direct contact with your teeth and eat them away over time (who’s doing the eating now?). Free sugars also get sucked straight up into your blood which leads to the notorious sugar-high AND sugar-crash soon after. Free sugars include: the sugar added to tea and coffee (and pancakes!), sugar in maple syrup, sauces, fruit juice, baked goods, and even honey.
Of course, avoiding free sugar is difficult in our modern food supply, so it’s better to adopt a “cutting down” approach and try to opt for more nourishing alternatives wherever you can. Reducing the sugar in the recipe (like in the recipe below) will mean a lighter sweetness, and a teaspoon of honey is by all means fine – it can add a welcoming buzz to satisfy a sweet tooth. Just remember that reaching for an extra splurge of maple syrup or generously pouring over honey isn’t the ideal way to go. True to the nutritious mishn, everything in moderation!
Try some of these healthier, delicious pancake toppings that ditch the sugary highway and still add a sweeter note:
- Fresh seasonal fruits, or poached fruits (try apple sprinkled with cinnamon, rhuburb, peaches or mixed berries)
- Low-fat ricotta swirled with a teaspoon of honey, cocoa or cinnamon
- 100% fruit puree – the baby food aisle has plenty! (who said that they are only for babies?)
Make portion-distortion your friend
When we think of pancakes, the social media and food companies have made ridiculous portion sizes the new norm – anyone imagining a whopping tower of a dozen (or more) thick cakes dressed in shimmering maple syrup? Despite the mouth-watering display, this is definitely not supposed to be a serving for one! That said, a measly stack of two might not make the cut for the foodie within us, and we feel utterly short-stacked.
A sneaky portion trick you could try is to make smaller pancakes, slice up a ripe banana and stack alternating layers using 3-4 pancakes and thick banana slices. For added volume, add a dollop of low-fat ricotta or Greek yoghurt and pile on fresh berries and chopped nuts for a very satisfactory stack – it’s like a portion-sized dessert on high-heels!
Serves: 2 people (3 medium pancakes each)
Cost: $1.52 ($0.76 per person)
Time: 20 mins (+ 10 mins standing time)
- 1 cup wholemeal plain flour (see Notes)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tbsp white sugar or sugar substitute (stevia)
- 3/4 cup low-fat milk, lukewarm (see Notes)
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 2 tsbp canola spread, melted (reduced-salt, if available)
- 1 tsp vanilla essence (optional)
- Canola oil spray
- Ripe banana, sliced
- Seasonal or frozen mixed berries
- Roasted walnuts, roughly chopped
Let’s get cooking!
- Sift flour, baking powder and sugar into a large bowl and roughly stir to mix.
- In a jug, mix the milk, egg and spread. Add vanilla, if using. Make an indent in the centre of the flour mixture and pour in the milk mixture. Stir in a cutting action until there are no obvious streaks of flour and the batter just comes together (the batter should be slightly thick and still have some lumps). If too thick, add tablespoons of milk to adjust the consistency. Cover the bowl and stand for 5-10 minutes.
- Spray a large non-stick fry pan with oil and heat over low-medium heat. Drop approximately 1/4-cup portions of the batter into the pan and cook until bubbles form on the surface or until the bottom is golden brown. Flip pancakes and cook for another minute or two or until cooked through. Transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil or a tea towel to keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve warm with your favourite toppings (see suggestions in the blog above).
Topping: I used sliced bananas, chopped walnuts, fresh strawberries (halved or quartered if large), fresh blueberries and frozen raspberries. For a fruity syrup, I microwaved a cup of frozen raspberries for a 20-40 seconds on high and mixed in the strawberries. You can also add a teaspoon of vanilla essence or honey if you prefer). Alternatively, you can toss the strawberries with a sprinkle of sugar and set aside to macerate while you make the batter and cook the pancakes – this will soften the strawberries and give them a glossy shine
- Thicker batter means a fluffier pancake. Try not to overwork the batter as it will lead to heavy and chewy pancakes.
- Flour: the ratio of baking powder and plain flour used in this recipe is basically the same as self-raising flour alone. So don’t panic if you don’t have baking powder, just use self-raising flour!
- Milk: I found that lukewarm milk “warms up’ to the other ingredients better. Again, you can omit this detail and use chilled milk. In case you are tempted to try, hot milk will end up cooking the egg!
- Standing time: the 10 minutes standing time can be omitted if you’re making a stack on the run. It is mainly to allow the ingredients to “get to know each other” – especially for the bran in the wholemeal flour to absorb some of the moisture from the batter for a more moist texture. This will also mean that the batter gets thicker after standing. Add more milk if you find that it’s too thick.
|Total fat (g)||18.2|
|– Saturated fat (g)||4.7|
|– Sugars (g)||22.4|
*Toppings are not included in the costing and nutritional analyses.
Recipe inspiration from Chocolates and Chai